With the inception of the world wide web in 1990, businesses across the globe were suddenly thrust into a world with more sharing and more connectivity than ever before. The internet has since become a cornerstone of modern business, and along with it so has the embedded concept of interconnectivity.
American author and entrepreneur Lisa Gansky calls this concept the “mesh”, and in a TED Talk in 2011 explained how the principle of sharing has permeated across all industries, and how the mesh would become “the future of business”, benefitting startups and small business alike.
In this blueprint, Ganksy lays out a set of principles for the future decades of business that still hold insights for SMEs building their offerings in 2017.
Explaining the mesh, Gansky says it’s a” fundamental shift in our relationship with stuff, with the things in our lives”, and referred to how, as humans, we have had a long tradition of sharing things: Through sports, concerts, parks, transportation, and more.
The new “mesh” order has been shaped by a number of factors, says Gansky. The primary factors for the shift are city density and population growth, as well as a growing distrust of big brands.
“Research is showing here, in the States, and in Canada and Western Europe, that most of us are much more open to local companies, or brands that maybe we haven’t heard of. Whereas before, we went with the big brands that we were sure we trusted,” she says.
Becoming a “mesh company”
Gansky believes businesses wanting to embrace the future of interconnectivity should strive to become a “mesh company”, combining users’ability to connect through things like social media and the Internet with the physical inter-connectivity of mobile devices, and applying this to a world where accessing goods and services is “more convenient and less costly in many cases than owning them”.
She uses the examples of ridesharing business Zipcar and video on demand company Netflix as examples of strong “mesh companies”.
“The opportunity and the challenge with mesh businesses…is to make sharing irresistible,” she says.
“We have experiences in our lives, certainly, when sharing has been irresistible. It’s just, how do we make that recurrent and scale it?”
“We know also, because we’re connected in social networks, that it’s easy to create delight in one little place. It’s contagious because we’re all connected to each other. So if I have a terrific experience and I tweet it, or I tell five people standing next to me, news travels.”
Slip the surly bonds of structure
Finally, Gansky recommends businesses looking to become more interconnected with their community and says other businesses should look to the “platform” of their local city, saying businesses should strive to invite participation and collaboration in their local spaces in order to become better-connected businesses.
Pop-up stores go a long way to helping businesses get connected, with the transitory nature of the short-term stores inviting “vibrancy and engagement” and engaging lots of customers, she says.
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“From my perspective, one of the things pop-up stores do is create perishability and urgency. It creates two of the favorite words of any businessperson: Sold out. And the opportunity to really focus trust and attention is a wonderful thing,” she says.
“So a lot of what we see in the mesh, and a lot of what we have in the platform that we built allows us to define, refine and scale. It allows us to test things as an entrepreneur, to go to market, to be in conversation with people, listen, refine something and go back. It’s very cost-effective, and it’s very mesh-y. The infrastructure enables that.”
“We’re at the very beginning of something that – what we’re seeing and the way that mesh companies are coming forward – it’s inviting, it’s engaging, but it’s very early.”